Jayce Basques: Setting the Scene

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San Francisco is the setting for many a classic movie, and Jayce Basques says The City was always a scene stealer.

I grew up on classic cinema and my favorite character actor of all time is, in fact, the city of San Francisco. The whole Bay Area deserves recognition, but to be fair, who among us doesn’t say we’re from San Francisco or Oakland when in reality we’re from Millbrae or Fremont and would rather spare the geography lesson?

Speaking of Fremont, it’s hard to imagine that Niles Canyon is where Charlie Chaplin fine-tuned the character that would make him a household name.

Writer Dashiell Hammett, to some degree, owes his success to The City. Having lived at 891 Post himself, he set The City as the backdrop to "The Maltese Falcon." I get a kick out of the scene where Humphrey Bogart’s leading character is sent on a wild goose chase to a fake address in the town I grew up in. He’s visibly annoyed because in all likelihood a trip from Nob Hill to Burlingame and back, going 35 mph via Mission Street, probably took two hours.

Hammett’s logical follow up to this blockbuster hard boiled 'private eye' drama was a comedy about an alcoholic semi-retired detective, in "The Thin Man" series.


In "After the Thin Man," the leading characters, Nick and Nora, return home to San Francisco. If you pay attention you’ll notice their front yard is, in fact, the back lawn at Coit Tower. The same little trick is pulled in 1951’s aptly titled, “The House on Telegraph Hill.” If you’ve been there before, you probably wished you lived there too.

And finally, if you are in the market for a dark, gritty tour of the Bay led by Bogie once again, follow him from San Quentin, across the Golden Gate, through the Fillmore, and even up the Filbert Steps, in 1947’s "Dark Passage."

I could go on, but you get the point. Bay Area, we see you, the character actor that refuses to be upstaged.

With a Perspective, I’m Jayce Basques.

Jayce Basques is a media tech program manager and lives in San Francisco.